Where in the world has this idea of charging what you are worth or knowing what you are worth has come from? I see many massage therapists talking about it and high-fiving each other for every little thing that they do explaining that they now know their worth. It is BS. Somehow the idea that if you not earning the kind of money you would like to earn it’s often framed as evidence that you don’t believe in your worth enough.
Your worth has NOTHING to do with money. No one could ever pay you what you are truly worth – $1,000,000. How do you put a price tag on something that is beyond monetary value? What is it worth to have your life back after suffering in pain for a few weeks or a few years?
If you are an employee or IC, the employer will pay you what THEY THINK YOU ARE WORTH. If you are self employed, the customer will pay what they can afford and will pay for things that they value. If someone is charging more or less than you are – does that mean that they are worth less as a person. NO. Is Bill Gates or Jeff Bezo’s ‘more worthy’ of a person than you because they are billionaires? I doubt they ever sat around wondering what they were worth or if they were worthy of their wealth.
What you are being paid for is your time and the skills you have learned in massage school and for your experience as a massage therapist. Massage school is usually a one year or less program that the average cost is $12,000 or so.
Now I know the massage profession tends to attract many people who don’t understand business and would like to give their massage away at low costs and they don’t have cancellation policies in place and things like that. Is that because they don’t know their worth or they don’t understand business and that they would rather be a ‘nice’ person and have low rates so that everyone can get a massage? Is it because they know that they could never afford to get regular massage at higher rates? Is it their ‘noble poverty’ idea that it is better to help people than to get paid more concept and not understanding the meaning of money?
Most of our issues with money come from confusing money and love. We think people will love us more than the competitor with lower rates. We think we are being generous, giving and nice offering lower fees. We think we will be loved more. We give up parts of ourselves to be loved more but it just doesn’t work that way. We caretake rather than take care which is what I call the Code of the Caretaker. People can feel our neediness. They can feel us leaning on them. It makes them uncomfortable.
It is a math problem.
A client won’t pay you what you are worth. They will only pay you what they can afford. They will pay you what they perceive you are worth to them. They will pay more and come in more often when they value the outcomes that massage therapy can bring to their lives. Your job as a massage therapist – no matter if you are employed or self employed – is to bring value to the table. This idea that people don’t value YOU is ridiculous. What they don’t value is themselves. They don’t care enough about themselves to want to pay for a massage once a week or whatever it is. It isn’t about YOU.
Setting your fees is about math. What do you need to make to be able to pay the rent and business expenses and make a living for yourself and family? Just a math problem. What is the work worth? You went to massage school and paid maybe $12,000. That is nothing in comparison to other fields. When you attach the idea that pricing is about your worth, you are beating yourself up. Start tracking your personal expenses to see what you need to make each month to pay the mortgage/rent, groceries, gas etc. Start tracking what you need to pay your office rent and businesses expenses. It won’t become a math problem until you do this and just really understand the basics – you need to make more then you spend. If you don’t have enough clients, work on that. If you are spending too much – work on that. It’s just math.
And if you notice all those people telling you that you need to raise your rates so you charge what you are worth usually have some program, book or class that they want you to take to teach you how to ‘charge what you are worth’. They constantly cut you down and make you feel bad you aren’t making $100k or whatever it is that they think you should be charging – is that so you can pay them for their classes?
Getting comfortable with yourself and money
The things we do need to look at and deal with in the massage profession are the feelings massage therapists get when they think about raising their rates, charging late fees/cancellation fees and confusing that with the need to be a good person. We charge people less, thinking they won’t pay that or that you need to do that to get people on the table when others are charging such low rates. Doing that does not happen overnight. It happens as you gain experience and confidence in your work and do your personal work to learn more about the reasons behind those feelings. It comes from the old feelings that were ingrained in you as a child that you were not good enough, smart enough, valuable enough. Those feelings are best dealt with by an experienced counselor or psychologist.
Once you just start looking at the numbers – the rent, taxes, expenses and cost of living – it all just becomes a math problem. Take the emotions out of it. Take the idea that you are not charging what you are worth and bury it in the backyard. Stop beating yourself up and making yourself feel bad thinking you are not charging what you are worth. Everyone can make a decent living in massage therapy. Start where you need to start with your pricing and work your way up to top of the line pricing as your skills and experience grow.
Do your best work. Show up on time. Set your boundaries. Set your prices to reflect your expenses and to cover your needs for living. Work on removing the emotional baggage you have around getting paid for what you do. Stop with the get paid what you are worth and sleep easier knowing that your value has nothing to do with money.
Tracy Walton’s article On Not “Charging What You’re Worth” in Oncology Massage Therapy MARCH 8, 2018 BY TRACY WALTON
It’s too easy to fall into the trap of “I should charge what I am worth.” I’ve even encountered MTs who ask each client to pay what the client feels the therapist is worth. Deferring to the client for the final word can be problematic, to say the least.
But equally troubling is the notion that we charge based on what we are worth.
When we do, a simple fee for a simple service becomes gnarled up in self-worth. Add in all the emotional energetics of money and self-esteem, along with the gender wage gap and other social forces, “charging what I’m worth,” is a prescription for confusion. Pile on the intimacy of massage therapy and the therapeutic relationship, and it could take decades to disentangle it all. ~Tracy Walton